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HTF REVIEW: "Rabbit-Proof Fence" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    [​IMG]

    Rabbit-Proof Fence





    Studio: Miramax
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 94 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English




    1500 Miles Is A Long Way Home


    Because I receive dozens of screener titles each
    week, I often have to make difficult choices on
    which films I wish to review as opposed to those
    I just don't have time for. In all cases, I try
    to select different types of titles that cover a
    wide range of interests. With the HTF membership
    always in mind, I try to offer reviews on a diverse
    variety of titles. This brings me to Rabbit-Proof
    Fence
    , a film that I had never heard of before,
    but was immediately attracted to based on its
    factual historical significance.

    Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the true story of
    a shameful episode of Australian history and
    decades of prejudicial treatment endured by the
    aboriginal peoples. Until 1970 it was official
    government policy to remove fair-skinned ‘half-caste’
    children from aboriginal homes and transplant them
    to white families, with the intention of ‘breeding out’
    aboriginal characteristics and thus preventing
    the creation of “an unwanted third race.” It
    was hoped that by the third generation the blackness
    would be bred out of their descendents and Australia
    would be a more purely white society.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The film begins in the early 1930s where we meet
    Molly, Daisy and Gracie, three young Aboriginal
    girls living with their family at Jigalong, on
    the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, on a reserve
    in Northern Australia. Unbeknownst to them, a
    special committee has been set up to contain this
    mixing, headed by A. O. Neville, Chief Protector
    of Aborigines (Kenneth Branagh). Neville decrees
    that all half-cast children be placed on a special
    reserve where they can be civilized and assimilated
    into white culture.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Before we know it, the three girls are seized from
    their families and taken - in a cage - to a school
    in the south, where they are to learn to be white
    and speak only English. Molly, the oldest of the
    girls, decides to escape, dragging the younger girls
    with her. The girls' only hope of finding their way
    home is to follow a mesh rabbit-proof fence that
    crisscrossed the country and divided it from north
    to south. They better be careful however, as hot
    on their trails is Moodoo (David Gulpilil), a tracker
    who tends to easily find and recapture escapees from
    the school.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Though I found the factual story of Rabbit-Proof
    Fence
    to be a very powerful one, I was disappointed
    that the film lacks memorable soul-wrenching content.
    There's very little here that draws us emotionally
    into the plights of these three girls. Rather than
    being pulled into the story, I felt as if I was
    watching it from a distance. Still, one can't help
    but to be inspired by the courage of these three
    girls who seek nothing more than their own freedom.


    How is the transfer?


    Miramax has given us a generally pleasing transfer
    with video that looks clean, although somewhat soft.
    I must point out that the director chose to make
    some stylish choices that affect image quality. The
    scenes that take place in Jigalong are enhanced
    with a good amount of background grain. Once we
    leave that location, the transfer takes on a much
    cleaner and smoother look with clear, bright and
    accurate color rendering. Some of the beautiful
    Australian outback scenes often suffer from
    excessive bright contrast, but I expect, again,
    this was the intent of the filmmaker.

    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix sports great low
    frequency, a wide front stage and rumbling .LFE
    and rear support that adds texture to Peter Gabriel's
    evocative score that uses Aboriginal and contemporary
    sources as a highly rhythmic backup to the film's
    mostly silent action. The rears do a nice job of
    reproducing the ambient sounds of the Australian
    outback. Very nice listen!


    Special Features

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    First up is a feature-length commentary with
    Director Phillip Noyce and featuring musician Peter
    Gabriel actor Kenneth Branagh, screenwriter Christine
    Olsen and Author Pilkington Garimara. The commentary
    begins with the deep James Earl Jones-like voice of
    director Phillip Noyce who tells us about the night
    he was awoken from his sleep at 3am by a phone call
    from a strange-sounding woman who was pitching him
    the idea of making a film based upon her screenplay.
    That woman was screenwriter Christine Olsen, and she
    begins to tell us how she happened to come upon
    the book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by
    Author Doris Pilkington. The book told the story
    of her mother's return to her homelands from the
    Moore River Native Settlement using hundreds of
    kilometers of rabbit-proof fence as a guide. The
    author had the opportunity to go to Jigalong and
    talk not only with the children who resided there,
    but Molly and Daisy themselves. Director Phillip
    Noyce wastes a lot of time venting about his
    frustrations over begging Harrison Ford to star in
    The sum of all fears. I suppose the reason
    the director is doing this is to make a bold
    statement about the tyranny of the Hollywood star
    system and why a film like this became so attractive
    to him. Author Doris Pilkington tells a very
    detailed story of her Mother's plights including
    the separation from her baby daughter. About 40
    minutes into the commentary, Peter Gabriel begins
    talking about constructing the film's soundtrack
    using naturally recorded sounds. This is a great
    listen as Gabriel gives us some specific recorded
    examples, including the sounds of a magpie that was
    recorded and then slowed down with added reverb.
    Alas, unless I am mistaken, Gabriel only talks for
    approximately 4 minutes in this entire commentary.
    Although rather dryly presented, this commentary
    offers a lot of background information on a very
    dark period in Australian history.

    [​IMG]

    Following the Rabbit-Proof Fence takes us
    to the western Australian outback where we meet
    director Phllip Noyce who is searching for three
    Aboriginal children to star in his film, Rabbit-
    Proof Fence
    . We watch the director as he
    interviews a few of the hundred children that have
    shown up to audition for the roles. Through raw
    video footage, we watch as the kids are put
    through acting and improvisational classes that
    will ultimately prepare them for the film. We also
    get a very in-depth idea of the casting process
    and how the choices are narrowed down, and the
    final selection of girls are chosen. Finally, we
    watch as the young actresses have their makeup
    applied and hair done before they venture to the
    outdoor sets where we see them perform in front of
    the camera. This is a totally engaging and highly
    interesting documentary that is well worth watching.
    (length: approx. 42 minutes)

    Although the film's original theatrical trailer is
    notably absent here, there are Sneak Peeks
    for the films Frida, Quiet American and
    (Kieslowski's) Heaven


    Final Thoughts

    [​IMG]

    Although Rabbit-Proof Fence is a sad and
    terribly touching story, the film never becomes
    the powerful emotional experience it should have
    been. Nonetheless, the film is certainly worth
    a watch -- especially for the fact that it brings
    Aboriginal issues back into the open.

    If you see it on the rental shelf, give it a try!


    Release Date: April 15, 2003


    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Yumbo

    Yumbo Well-Known Member

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    darned DHL delivery is late.

    score CD is quite good (sounding).
     
  3. David Lawson

    David Lawson Well-Known Member

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    I can't recommend this film enough, and couldn't wait for the R1 release, so I imported the two-disc R4 edition from Australia (which includes the theatrical and television trailers, as well as cast and crew interviews and biographies) months ago. Enjoy!
     
  4. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Well-Known Member

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    I have to disagree with Ron on this one as I felt being pulled into the movie from the start and Peter Gabriel's music is spot on. I thought it was an emotional issue, and once the movie was over, felt numb. I thought Branagh's character was very well done in portraying him as a sadistic person who did not care at all. At the same time this was my first exposure to what happened to half caste children. Not a pretty sight indeed.

    If anybody can help me gain more knowledge about this period in time, let me know as I am absolutely interested in learning more

    Regards

    Oscar
     
  5. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Well-Known Member

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  6. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Well-Known Member

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    I saw this film in theaters with zero knowledge going in, and loved it. Can't wait to buy the dvd to turn my friends onto this great piece.

    -Vince
     
  7. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Well-Known Member

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    I never heard of this movie before, nor this being done in history. When I saw the title of the film in Ron's reviews, and it being in the Disney section; I thought it had something to do with Roger Rabbit, LOL.

    What a big surprise! I will check this movie out for sure!!
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Well-Known Member

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    I have to disagree with you on this on Ron. I found the film emotionally very powerful. Perhaps some of that (for me) may be due to having lived in Australia, something that might make the subject matter somewhat more immediate.

    So you know, children like these are commonly referred to as, the stolen generation. This concept is even today quite controversial, as the current government has denied that there was in fact a ‘stolen generation’. But this seems to be definitional, as to how comprehensive the program was, rather than a denial that it occurred.

    I recommend this film highly.
     
  9. Richard Gilmore

    Richard Gilmore Well-Known Member

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    This played locally at an art/foreign film theatre and received good reviews. I didn't get a chance to see it, but plan on getting the DVD. Incidentally this was one of the last films to play at the theatre until it closed down. It was recently bought and now it plays second tier new releases. Sad that the art/foreign movies couldn't succeed there, which makes DVD's that much more valuable to me.
     
  10. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    Great, as always, too see Film Reviews, on this site.
    No, this title will not make your HT rock.
    However, it should bring up a thought provoking moment, or two.
    Hey, my mind & body, is all for "Movies", just that "Films", is were the soul is.
     
  11. Richard RogersBerry

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    Count me as another that disagrees with Ron on this one!

    I was surprized to see that it did not have the (all too frequently used) *Highly Recommended* tag. The beauty of the environment is so well captured and in contrast to the brutality of the policy - it is literally gutwrenching.

    With all due respect, you must have been having a bad day. This is bound to turn up on many top 10 lists! I hope this review will not influence anyone to let this profound film pass.
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Real Name:
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  13. Holadem

    Holadem Well-Known Member

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  14. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Holadem about the benefits of watching movies in the theater. More times than not I will judge a movie different than I would had I seen it in the theater first. It's just something about those damn buildings.[​IMG]

    The opposite happened for LOTR:TT I didn't enjoy it in the theater because the crowd was so dry, I wanted to cheer and shout, but it was the wrong crowd. I'm hoping to develop more feeling towards it at home.

    Seeing movies at the theater can be a blessing or a curse.
     
  15. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Well-Known Member

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  16. Yumbo

    Yumbo Well-Known Member

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    ok,

    sound is good.
    picture uses varying stock it seems.

    watched the making of first, which had me mesmerised, and then bawling during the shooting of the abduction.

    I lived in Adelaide (where production was based) for 5 years, and can very much relate.

    Along with the White Australia policy, it is a very shameful part of Australian history; not to say that Australia is now a pretty fantastic country. Still, it has the issues of 'apology' etc.

    To comment further would entail the injustices of colonial rule in general.

    reminds me of the movie BlackFella - anyone seen that?

    still watching.

    I applaud Philip Noyce for going back home.

    grin - the train used in the opening is actually a tourist train in Adelaide that goes down to the coast. And the bald guy in charge of the home, is a famous comedian.

    the gums, the acacias...
     
  17. James T

    James T Well-Known Member

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  18. Yumbo

    Yumbo Well-Known Member

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    grin,

    we normally get a Tuesday morning (3 day) delivery, but no flight from LA this week.

    we got it yesterday arvo (Friday) along with Drumline and The Transporter.

    rest of movie - I'd agree with Ron somewhat (but the same can be said or worse of many other movies). The epilogue was emotional.

    realised (figures) that most of it was shot in the Flinders Ranges - nice place to visit.
     
  19. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Well-Known Member

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  20. streeter

    streeter Well-Known Member

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    My stupid local Blockbuster doesn't even carry this title. Morons.

    I'll have to make a longer drive or put it in my online queue. Definitely look forward to seeing this.
     

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